Credentialing Direct Support Professionals

First-Ever Program Will Build Skills & Status MINNEAPOLIS, MN. – The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) has developed […]

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First-Ever Program Will Build Skills & Status

MINNEAPOLIS, MN. – The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) has developed and unveiled the first-ever national credentialing program for direct support professionals (DSPs) who work in community human services settings, caring and supporting people with disabilities.

“This is a national, voluntary credentialing program designed to provide recognition for the contributions and competence of direct care employees. The NADSP credential is a portable credential that represents consistency in direct support education, work-based learning and competence,” said Mark Olson, NADSP president.

Olson explained that NADSP has developed a national agenda to address conditions chronicled for 25 years that are harmful to people who rely on human services – chronic and high staff turnover of support personnel, low social status, insufficient training, limited educational and career opportunities, and poor wages.

“These serious issues undermine the commitment of the direct support professionals, and have made it very difficult to recruit and train qualified and committed individuals in direct support roles in every area of human services,” he explained. “The time has come when direct support professionals must be seen as the talented, educated, caring individuals they are,” Olson added.

The new NADSP credential-ing program gives DSPs (including personal care attendants) the opportunity to commit to the profession of direct support through a three-tiered credential program. The three credentials are DSP-Registered, DSP-Certified and DSP-Specialist. Each level involves additional training and expertise and a commitment to the profession.

Upon completion of the DSP-Registered level, a DSP will then be eligible to complete expert training in the key competencies of empowerment, communication, planning, ethical practices and advocacy to become a DSP-Certified. The third level of the program recognizes those DSPs who have gone through specialized training and have demonstrated competence in providing specialized support to individuals with disabilities in community human services.

A common component in the requirements for all levels is a knowledge of and understanding of the NADSP Code of Ethics. DSPs, as part of this process, must sign a commitment to adhere to the NADSP Code of Ethics. The code can be found on the NADSP Web site.

In order to receive a DSP certified or specialist credential, the DSP must complete an approved training program. Currently, the NADSP has approved two existing curricula that meet the education/training requirements of the NADSP national credential:nity inclusion, 14) Individual rights and choice, and 15) Personal and self care.

Employers and post-secondary programs that do not have an existing DOL-approved apprenticeship program or do not use the CDS can apply to the NADSP to have their programs reviewed and accredited so their graduates can apply for the national credential.

Although the NADSP creden-tialing program is new, the NADSP is an organization that has been around for many years. It is a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to strengthening the quality of human service support by training and educating the direct support workforce. The group has representatives from the fields of mental health, developmental disabilities, child welfare, education and many others in the human services community. Currently, there are 28 NADSP affiliates in 19 states across the U.S. NADSP state affiliates are direct support advocacy groups or individuals interested in direct support issues who provide NADSP with information on what’s important to DSPs in their area.

The NADSP believes that service participants and DSPs are partners in the move towards a self-determined life, and in complimenting and facilitating growth of natural supports. “We recognize that people needing support are more likely to fulfill their life dreams if they have well-trained, experienced and motivated people at their side in long-term, stable, compatible support relationships. We also recognize that well-planned workforce development strategies, such as NADSP’s national credentialing program, are needed to strengthen our workforce,” Olson said.

For details and applications for the new credentialing program, or to inquire about accreditation of an existing program, visit the NADSP Web site,, or contact Mark Olson, 952-920-0855.

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